Premier League Playback: It’s time to change the Transfer Window rules

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As Deadline Day looms, it’s time to have a rethink

With 24 hours to go until the transfer window slams shut for Premier League clubs, a frantic day of scrambling for last minute bargains is expected up until the deadline at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

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Although there will be plenty of arrivals in the coming hours as windows shut across Europe’s other big leagues earlier, the theme throughout the final week of the window has been players handing in transfer requests as they aim to push through a move to another club. The way the system is set up, that’s their only option and the selling club, who doesn’t want to sell its star players, is then left with an unhappy player who cannot move on. If the selling club do end up selling, they then have to scramble and pay over the odds for a replacement player on Deadline Day. That’s just not the way it should work and the big question remains: should the rules of the transfer window be changed to see it end on the eve of the new PL season each year?

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John Stones, Saido Berahino and Victor Wanyama have all had transfer requests turned down in the past week, as big boys are lurking to snatch top prospects from ambitious, but smaller, teams.

Speaking of Stones, I was present in Roberto Martinez’s press conference following Everton’s 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. He did not lambaste Chelsea for their pursuit of the 21-year-old England international and said they acted within the laws — the Blues have made three bids over the summer with the latest in excess of $60 million but Everton turned it down — but Martinez instead criticized the current system in place.

“In the modern game now there is a lot of talk about bringing players in and new names, a 24-hour channel checking who’s coming in and who’s coming out,” Martinez said. “We [Everton] have got a very strong project where we give young players the chance to play and we develop them. We need to have a long-term ambition to allow that to happen. It is very hard in the modern game to have players like John Stones, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku, young players that are fulfilling huge roles. We want to become a winning team and John Stones is a big part of that.

“As I’ve said all along, there are certain aspects I don’t agree with the transfer window. When the official games have started, I think they disrespect and devalue the competition. This is not right for the fans who support our institutions, our football clubs, and it gets to a point where we need to protect our players. The position that John has been put in is wrong. From a human point of view it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. If you expand and look throughout the dressing rooms up and down the country, you have one or two cases in every single team. It is wrong. It is about time we do something.”

“The authorities should look into it and do something about it,” Martinez continued. “I know it is difficult because you have to have a period where you assemble your squad, and rightly so, but I think the period where the first official game starts, all of that circus should be stopping as well. Chelsea, like any other team, will try to assemble their squad and they will try to do it in their own way like everyone does. Unfortunately, that’s the way it happens in any league in the world. My complaint to the football authorities is that we are putting our youngsters under massive pressure and let’s protect them. I think everyone knows that a footballer is not just a footballer but a human being. They should be a little bit more protected.”

He’s right. Martinez hit the nail on the head. We all love the juicy rumors and the hustle and bustle of hearing about mega-deals taking place on Deadline Day. Trust me, I love it. Those whispers are latched onto by fans, journalists and even club officials and the news is broadcast in papers, on 24-hour sports TV stations and websites across the world. It’s news. It’s exciting and there’s no denying this industry has spiraled out of control, just like the transfer fees, in the past decade. There’s no need to put an end to it, but limiting it would be better for everyone. With Everton taking a stance and turning down the endless riches of Chelsea to keep a young star, their fans showed their appreciation to the owners on Saturday by signing the following song at White Hart Lane.

Like Martinez said, why can’t we adjust the rules and end this window on the eve of the season?

The January transfer window could be shortened too, perhaps to just the opening week of January when the FA Cup takes over in England and clubs who are on a break from PL action could then have a week to add more players or shift on a few more. This would make those days of negotiations and deals even more exhilarating. For now, we will sit back and watch the deals trickle in on the final day of the summer window. When it’s over, we will reflect on how successful this summer has been for each Premier League club. But in the long-term, changes need to be made to make this process fairer and limit the longevity of this seemingly never-ending circus.

Premier League Schedule – Week 4

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 2-2 S’land Recap and watch here
B’mouth 1-1 Leicester Recap and watch here
Chelsea 1-2 C. Palace Recap and watch here
Liverpool 0-3 West Ham Recap and watch here
Man City 2-0 Watford Recap and watch here
Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Saints 3-0 Norwich Recap and watch here
Stoke 0-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
Swansea 2-1 Man United Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-0 Everton Recap and watch here

De Bruyne joins as Man City go all in 

One club which will surely not be doing any business on Deadline Day is Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have spent big this summer, splashing out over $200 million in transfer fees alone with Raheem Sterling, Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin de Bruyne arriving. Talk about making a statement.

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De Bruyne, 24, is expected to be the final piece of the attacking jigsaw as the Belgian international arrived for a staggering $84 million from Wolfsburg on Sunday. He recorded 20 assists in the Bundesliga last season, the most of any player in Europe’s top five leagues, and alongside fellow new-boy Sterling and the wizard that is David Silva, those three will provide the predatory Sergio Aguero with countless opportunities to score. With City failing to concede a goal in their opening four games of the season and scoring 10 times in four-straight wins to go top of the standings, it’s been a dream start to the season for Pellegrini. It’s been a dream in the transfer market too, even if question marks remain over KDB’s ability to reproduce his exploits from Germany in England’s top-flight. Chelsea let the Belgian flyer leave for $30 million in January 2014 after he failed to impress Jose Mourinho. Know De Bruyne has arrived back in the PL for almost three-times that amount and could be a key factor in grabbing City the title off his old club Chelsea.

For a man worth $84 million, you’d expect to be buying a player with a body the Greek gods of yesteryear (and Cristiano Ronaldo) would be proud of and someone who’d strike fear into the hearts of opposition defenders with a single picture. It may be slightly surprising then to see one of the images City released (above) to announce the signing of De Bruyne, who was having his medical. Talk about unflattering…

Early season trend: Away day success continues

After the opening 40 games of the PL season we have seen 17 wins from away teams. That’s a significant trend, even if some of the bigger teams have been handed somewhat easier games away from home to open up. Especially when you consider there has only been nine victories by home teams throughout the opening four weeks of the new season, that’s 22.5 percent of games have so far been won by the home teams, and looking at the stat below it was even less than that after Saturday’s games.

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club

There are many theories for this, but the pressure put on teams at home from their own fans who want their teams to go all-out attack in search of all three points is perhaps the most feasible reason to explain this upsurge in away wins. Opposing teams know this. They sit back, soak up the pressure and many are not perfectly suited to hit teams on the counter-attack.

Take Crystal Palace, for example. They have perfect the art of winning away from him since Alan Pardew arrived as manager last January. In Pardew’s 10 away games as Palace boss, they have won eight of 10 matches, losing just once. On Saturday they beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge (their first victory at their London rivals since 1982 and only the second in their history as a club) and even though they didn’t sit back the entire game, the way they were set up was perfect to win on the road.

It will take a few more matchdays to figure out if this trend of away teams dominating is set to continue, but it certainly seems like home advantage is no longer all its cracked up to be.

Contentious calls mount up

Six red cards were dished out this weekend, and plenty of them were contentious.

Let’s play the role of referee — which I’m not pretending isn’t a very difficult job for one second — and look at all six.

  • Aleksandar Mitrovic (17th minute, Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal) – The Serbian striker has a reputation and has been booked within seconds of coming off the bench in recent games. His high foot onto the shin of Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin didn’t look like anything untoward on first viewing, but it was certainly dangerous and you can understand why referee Andre Marriner sent him off. Good call? Correct.
  • Ibrahim Afellay (25th minute, Stoke City 0-1 West Brom) – After being hacked down by Craig Gardner, Afellay got up angrily. Gardner tapped him in the face, but Afellay then lashed out and lightly tapped Gardner in the face. Referee Michael Oliver showed Afellay a red card, when really both players deserved a yellow and told to calm down. Good call? Incorrect.
  • Charlie Adam (31st minute, Stoke City 0-1 West Brom) – Remarkably Stoke were down to nine-men just six minutes after Afellay was sent off. The Scotsman slid into a challenge with Dawson but as he got up he appeared to tread on his opponents ankle. It looked accidental and Mark Hughes was incensed on the sidelines. Somehow Stoke only lost 1-0 but they can feel hard done by. Good call? Incorrect.
  • Philippe Coutinho (52nd minute, Liverpool 0-3 West Ham) – The diminutive Brazilian doesn’t know how to tackle. We all know that. However, Coutinho slid in to try and stop Dmitri Payet’s skillful turn and with the West Ham already flying right at him, he couldn’t get out of the way. Coutinho got a second yellow but maybe this was a little harsh. Good call? Correct.
  • Mark Noble (78th minute, Liverpool 0-3 West Ham) – Mark Noble lost control of the ball on the edge of the box and he did lunge in on Danny Ings but got the ball and did not touch the man. The whistle had already blown, and this sending off was another that could have been avoided.  Good call? Incorrect.
  • Steven Whittaker (31st minute, Southampton 3-0 Norwich City) – Two silly yellow cards left the referee with no other option. First yellow for putting Matt Targett in a headlock as he attempted a quick throw-in, then he hauled down Dusan Tadic forcefully minutes later. Whittaker put his side in a bad spot and they suffered badly. Good call? Correct.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United all fall

It was a weekend of shocks across the Premier League, as the heavyweights tumbled. Hard. In Jose Mourinho’s 100th Premier League home game as Chelsea boss, he suffered just his second PL home defeat to Palace. Chelsea went behind in the second half when Bakary Sako finally punished Chelsea’s defense which was ruthlessly ripped apart by Palace’s pacy wingers, and although Radamel Falcao equalized in the 79th minute for his first Chelsea goal which seemed to have rescued his side a point, Palace’s winner arrived moments later when Joel Ward headed home. It was a demoralizing day for Mourinho, as his side have now made the second worst start to a title defending season in PL history. That will leave “The Special One” with plenty to mull over during the international break…

Elsewhere, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool suffered a shock home defeat, their first loss of the season, to West Ham United. The Hammers are another team, like Palace, who have excelled on the road so far this season, winning at both Arsenal and Liverpool but have lost to Leicester City and Bournemouth at home in-between those marquee wins. Try and explain that. The Hammers scored early through Manuel Lanzini, then Dejan Lovren suffered a relapse to hand Mark Noble another. Two red cards muddied the waters, then Diafra Sakho added a clincher late on as Liverpool’s issues at the back reared their ugly head once again.

Then, there’s Manchester United. With slow progress being made under Louis van Gaal, his side once again looked stagnant in attack as Wayne Rooney fired a blank. Despite Juan Mata giving the Red Devils the lead, Swansea hit back through Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis as Garry Monk’s men continue to kick on and won their third-straight game against United. Gomis becomes the first Swansea player to score in four consecutive games to start the season ( he has four total, while new signing Andre Ayew has three) and the Frenchman’s famous wild panther celebration came out of the locker once again as he tore United apart. Epic.

Swansea beat United away from home in Van Gaal’s opening game as United boss at the start of last season. Another early defeat to the Swans this season begs the question: how much have United really improved under the man known as the “Iron Tulip?” United have seven points from their opening three games, but with matches against Liverpool, Southampton and Arsenal coming up in their next four outings, it could all start to unravel rather soon. Sorting out the David de Gea situation remains the main dilemma at Old Trafford, while French teenager Anthony Martial looks set to join United in a whopping $55 million on Deadline Day. Is LVG panic buying to cover up this mediocre start to the season?

USMNT update: Howard stands out before international return

This week marks the first time in over a year that all four of the Premier League’s U.S. internationals have been called up by Jurgen Klinsmann.

With friendlies against Peru and Brazil coming up over the next 10 days, Tim Howard has returned to the squad following a self-imposed sabbatical, while Geoff Cameron is also called into his first squad since 2014 after his impressive start to the season at center back with Stoke City. Aston Villa’s goalkeeper Brad Guzan and Tottenham’s right back DeAndre Yedlin both made the cut, but it is Howard who is once again making the headlines after his sublime display for Everton as they grabbed a 0-0 draw at Tottenham on Saturday.

His boss Roberto Martinez told ProSoccerTalk after the game at White Hart Lane that Howard is ready to return.

“He is ready. I think sometimes as a player you need a little bit of a mental break more than anything. I think he had a very good season in terms of being at the club and having a bit of a rest. Now he is ready. He is one of those personalities that they need to be the number one for the USA and needs to be the number one for Everton. I think he’s got some terrific years ahead.”

With Klinsmann saying Guzan is his man for the foreseeable future and Howard must come back into the team as the No. 2 goalkeeper, many would say that’s the correct way to play things with Villa’s goalkeeper not doing much wrong over the past 12 months. However, if Howard keeps pulling off superb saves like he did to deny Harry Kane and Co. on Saturday, it will not be long until he returns as the starter as the huge Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico looms on Oct. 10.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

FOLLOW LIVE: Fire v. Union, Galaxy v. Sounders on a busy MLS Saturday

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11 games in a matter of hours, now that’s a busy MLS Saturday you don’t want to miss.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7.5 hours ]

Things kickoff with the New York Red Bulls hosting the New England Revolution, and comes to a close with a vital Western Conference showdown between the Seattle Sounders and the LA Galaxy.

In between, the San Jose Earthquakes look to bounce back as they take on a struggling Sporting Kansas City, while Carlos Vela’s LAFC hope to widen the gap between them and the rest of the league.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls v. New England Revolution — 7 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact v. FC Dallas — 7:30 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew v. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Cincinatti v. NYCFC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United v. Orlando City — 8 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire v. Philadelphia Union — 8 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City v. San Jose Earthquakes— 8:30 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo v. Colorado Rapids — 9 p.m. ET
LAFC v. Real Salt Lake— 10 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps v. D.C. United — 10 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy v. Seattle Sounders— 10 p.m. ET

PL Sunday preview: Sheffield United v. Palace; Chelsea host Leicester

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Chelsea will look to earn its first points under Frank Lampard as they host Leicester City, who started their season with a draw against Wolves. Elsewhere, the Premier League returns to Sheffield as Roy Hodgson‘s Crystal Palace visit the Blades.

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Sheffield United v. Crystal Palace — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCS and NBCSports.com

88th minute, Billy Sharp, and goal are words that are still fresh in the Blades’ minds.

Why wouldn’t they be? After all, they’re only a game into their dream return to the Premier League, one they hope can only keep projecting upwards. The task won’t be a walk in the park, however, as a visiting Palace will look to rely on their plethora of attacking weapons to open their scoring account, which they failed to do so against Everton.

One of the weapons Palace could lean on is Wilfried Zaha, who may depart the club in January according to Hodgson. Last week, the Ivorian international came off the bench and only played 25 minutes, but a start for the winger at Bramall Lane may certainly improve Palace’s chances.

If so, Chris Wilder and the Blades will need more than a late Sharp goal to secure points in the Premier League’s return to Sheffield.

Chelsea v. Leicester City  — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCS and NBCSports.com

It’s only Frank Lampard’s second league game at the helm but the pressure is certainly on.

With Arsenal and Liverpool already at six points a piece, the Blues will need three points against Leicester City. Having lost to Manchester United (4-0) and Liverpool (5-4 via penalties) in a four-day span doesn’t help the cause either. Luckily, Chelsea has the quality to give the team a completely different look with the snap of a finger – whether Lampard believes that Christian Pulisic, Olivier Giroud or N’Golo Kante can give him that is yet to be seen.

The Foxes, on the other hand, also have their work cut out in front of them. Against Wolves, Brendan Rodgers‘ side recorded a lone shot on target. Certainly, Chelsea is not the ideal opponent to try to correct that, but if they can get it done what an injection of confidence that’d be for Leicester City. All in all, three points will not come easy for Jamie Vardy and Co.

La Liga roundup: 10-man Real Madrid hold off Celta in season opener

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Spain’s top flight is back, and here’s a roundup of all of Saturday’s action.

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Celta Vigo 1-3 Real Madrid

If Real Madrid and Barcelona are, again, going to battle toe-to-toe for La Liga, consider the former team to have a head start.

Hours after Barca got the Aritz Aduriz treatment, Real Madrid – playing with 10 men for more than 40 minutes – took care of business, calmly beating Celta Vigo behind goals from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Lucas Vasquez. Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric was sent off for a straight red in the 54th minute, while Gareth Bale, who stole headlines this summer after being rumored to leave time and time again, started and played 75 minutes.

Despite not having control of possession, the quality from Zinedine Zidane’s men was too much for Ruben Blanco. For instance, just look at Kroos’ strike from distance:

Celta, on the other hand, had a goal disallowed by VAR right before halftime, but still managed to spoil Thibaut Courtois‘ clean  in the dying minutes when Iker Losada, 18, scored two minutes after taking the field.

Valencia 1-1 Real Sociedad

Four minutes into stoppage time, Kevin Gameiro had the picture-perfect opportunity to record a brace and seal three points for Valencia in their first showing of the new campaign.

In front of an anxious Mestalla, he missed.

And just six minutes later, in the final breathe of the match, Mikel Oyarzabal did what Gameiro failed to do: convert from the spot. The rumored Manchester City target was influential all match and, in the end, rewarded with a goal.

A tough pill to swallow, Valencia will now look to earn their first win against Celta Vigo, while Sociedad next stop in their three-game road trip to start the season is Mallorca.

Villareal 4-4 Granada 

It wasn’t the matchup the majority had circled on their calendars, but Villareal and Granda’s 4-4 draw proved to be the most entertaining game on Saturday. A pair of penalties and an own goal were a few of the goals that made up the eight-goal frenzy.

Santi Carzorla – looking healthier than ever before – opened things up from the spot 35 minutes in. In the 75th minute, another familiar face, Roberto Soldado, put Granada a goal away from the home side. Shortly after, in the 81st minute, Antonio Puertas bagged Granada’s fourth and the night’s final goal.

An eight-goal match in such fashion will be hard to top on Sunday, that’s for sure.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Leganes 0-1 Osasuna

RCD Mallorca 2-0 Eibar

What we learned from a crazy PL Saturday

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Breathe. Take a walk outside. Put your arms above your head and try to drink in what you’ve actually seen today.

It is only Matchweek 2, but few Premier League days will match this.

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Saturday’s games delivered high drama with VAR outrage, howlers, stunning goals and intense battles playing out.

Below is what we learned from a wild seven games across the league.


VAR DRAMA MARS MAN CITY, SPURS CLASH

Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur played out a gripping, enthralling 2-2 draw, but it was marred by VAR at the death. Gabriel Jesus‘ late winner for City was ruled out for a handball on Aymeric Laporte, which enraged Pep Guardiola and delighted Mauricio Pochettino. Man City dominated the game and Spurs had two shots on target and scored with both of them. City will have a bitter taste in their mouth, especially after the late VAR drama against Spurs in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg last season. Pochettino said he is “in love with VAR” and Guardiola said it “needs to be fixed” as it is too subjective. The VAR debate will rumble on, as the ball clearly hit Laporte on the arm but many will have a bad taste in their mouths at the way it impacts the outcomes of games.


GUARDIOLA, AGUERO FALL OUT

Man City’s all-time leading goalscorer was not happy, at all, after being subbed out in the second half of their game against Spurs. He and Guardiola went at it, with words being said, fingers pointed and both had to be separated.

With tensions bubbling under the surface for years over Aguero’s playing style in a Pep side, this looked a lot more personal.

In the coming weeks we will find out just how damaging this public spat will be for both Guardiola and Aguero, as City may be starting to feel the pressure.


LIVERPOOL SHAKE OFF RUST

Liverpool edged by Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s on Saturday and it was a really strange game. Saints started well and given Liverpool’s 120 minutes against Chelsea for the Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday, it was expected that they’d start sluggishly. But when they kicked through the gears around half time they tore Saints apart with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino leading the charge. Adrian’s late howler gifted Saints a way back into the game and Danny Ings should have scored his and Saints’ second to snatch an unlikely draw. Liverpool held on and after the travel week they’ve had, Jurgen Klopp was a happy man at the final whistle. Two wins from two for the Reds, and they’ve been far from their best as their stars recover from busy summer tournaments.


PUKKI READY TO STAR FOR NORWICH

Teemu Pukki has four goals in his first two games as a Premier League player. Those questioning whether or not the Finnish striker could translate his form from the Championship to the PL are now having a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. Pukki scored a hat trick in Norwich’s 3-1 win against Newcastle and the first was a stunner. After his spells with Sevilla, Schalke and Celtic, Pukki has finally arrived in the big time and his clinical finishing will be a theme of the season. Norwich have been written off by plenty of teams and the way they hammered Newcastle suggests the Canaries will be well clear of the relegation scrap.


ARSENAL, CEBALLOS CLICKING THROUGH THE GEARS 

Arsenal’s attacking unit now has a deep playmaker as Dani Ceballos starred in their win over Burnley. Ceballos is the perfect replacement for Aaron Ramsey and he not only created chances but worked back defensively. He is the perfect player for Unai Emery to build his attack around. Of course, Aubameyang and Lacazette (who both scored) are stars who can finish, while Nicolas Pepe looked bright off the bench as Arsenal’s attacking options will feel their rivals with serious envy. At the back they had some issues dealing with Burnley’s direct style as David Luiz took a few unecessary risks and Bernd Leno flapped at a few crosses, but overall two wins from two is a very good start for the Gunners. Now come the real tests as they head to Liverpool and host Tottenham in their next two games. Lets see how good the Gunners really are.


Bonus: Harry Wilson and Douglas Luiz scored screamers in a 2-1 win for Bournemouth at Aston Villa. You need to see them.